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On Study Breaks: Fun, Delicious, Necessary

December 16, 2010

Ma'ayan Plaut ’10

As a student, reading period is a blur of "oh-my-GOODNESS-how-do-I-finish-all-these-things-every-paper-I-must-write-is-a-blur-of-numbers-studying-what-is-this-studying-i-wish-could-sleep-oh-oops-I-did-sleep-I-HAVE-SO-MUCH-TO-DO-study-write-study-study-finals-finals-crash-WINTER-BREAK." (Mad props if you managed to read that whole thing out loud in one breath.)

Reading period in Mudd looks like this. People everywhere, studying like crazy. All the books. All the studying.

There have been a selection of articles written recently about the ways that colleges are trying to help their stressed students through finals weeks. Our own Lori Morgan Flood, Assistant Dean and Director of Wellness and Health Promotion, has been quoted several times in articles regarding stress-reduction events during finals, most recently in an article from NPR.

Oberlin has some classic study breaks, including but not limited to snacks and $2 massages in A-Level, free coffee and snacks at the Rathskeller, the end-of-semester pancake breakfast at 10pm at Stevie, the MRC PB&J social (are we seeing a pattern here? Sometimes we forget to eat during finals... oops?).

There are also the less-delicious but still awesome study breaks, like all the final a capella concerts in Fairchild Chapel (there is/was one every day this week), bassoon Christmas, art walk, the cross-country Mudd run... the list goes on.

Posters from all the things happening this week. As I said, there are a ton of options.

We have two new super-duper awesome study breaks, too, that I really hope will become traditions. The first, the one-song dance parties in Mudd's academic commons, started at midterms and received a great response both from students and from the press. Each day of the party, there was voting on the For Students section of the Oberlin OnCampus website, with the winning songs piped through speakers for 3-5 minutes of dancing delight at 5 and 11pm.

For finals this semester, the voting was open for a week prior, with the top four songs blasted at 8pm and midnight for the two nights of reading period (when, coincidentally, Mudd is open 24 hours). There's nothing like rocking out in socked feet to Stevie, MJ, and other great dance mixes in the middle of the most mind-boggling time of your life. Sure beats my silent Mudd dance parties from yesteryear.*

Our second awesome study break was partially inspired by my "children's books when you're a big kid are an amazing mental break" idea from last year. Active Minds has organized several story book study breaks, and I was quite pleased that they invited me to join in the fun. I was assigned to read on Wednesday evening with my friend Jamie in South lounge, and Thursday evening with Patrick in the Kahn first floor lounge.

Wednesday's group was small; Brenna's first reading got canceled, so she joined Jamie and me for a triple-whammy of childhood nostalgia. We did a quick run-through of South lounge to grab anyone else looking bored or stressed, walking around with our books of choice. The kids playing pool seemed non-plussed, but one student saw that I was reading The Little Engine That Could, and said he would join us if we read that first. Of course.

After The Little Engine That Could, Jamie read Today is Monday and taught us the partnering song, and Brenna read If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, which we appropriately ate cookies during the reading of.

Can you tell that Jamie loves this book? She really does!

My delicious cookie during Brenna's reading.

Being the awesome sister I am, I delivered a bag of delicious Asian snacks (wasabi and sriracha peas, Hi-Chew candies, arare crackers, and instant miso soup, plus some holiday cookies) to Ben and his finals buddies Hannah and Jessica on Wednesday evening after story book time.

Hannah and Jessica, hard at work. Photo by Ben, who was testing out my NEW! camera.

Before I headed to the fourth floor to find their study haven, I was talking with Jamie in the academic commons. We headed toward the steps to head up to our respective floors (Jamie was parking in a corner on the third floor, the super quiet zone), and started hearing music.

It was 10pm. Was there another dance party planned I had missed? Jamie and I dashed out onto the first floor again.

People excitedly grouping? It must be a dance party!

It was... a flash mob. To Sir Duke and Dancing in the Streets. Oh my goodness, YES. I was 100 times more thankful for my NEW! camera with VIDEO! capability as I recorded the whole thing.

Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. I completely and totally love this place.

To all my friends, relatives, and people that should be relatives, I wish you all kinds of luck on your papers, exams, and presentations.

*Once upon a time, my best friend Sandhya and I had a million papers to write during reading period. Combined between the two of us, I think our final products were over 100 pages. That's insanity, in case you were wondering. To break the academic mindset, we would coordinate silent dance parties via instant messenger (to be noted: we were sitting next to each other; this is just how we roll), choosing a song that we would sync up together with our computers and headphones. At our combined signal, we would rock out to our songs simultaneously, looking to the average onlooker that we had finally snapped and gone into sugar-induced sleep-deprived spasms. After our mental break with Britney or NSYNC, back to work we would go. We both made it through, very much with the help of these dance parties and our combined support (also, these delicious fruit juice Twizzler-type snack from Decafe).

Responses to this Entry

FLASH MOB! That's beautiful. I'm sad that I missed it.

Also, I'm glad that the first part of Story Time Study Breaks went well! That cookie sure does look delicious. I wonder who made it... :P

I'm excited to read tonight! Dr. Seuss!

Posted by: Patrick on December 16, 2010 9:31 AM

This is all terrific, of course.

As a faculty member, I can't resist pointing out that at least some of the stress of reading period is avoidable with a little forethought. My students had their final paper assignment (I don't give exams) about three weeks ago, and I encouraged them to get them done early--and in fact a number of them did so. I'm as prone to procrastination as anyone, so I'm certainly sympathetic--but students with some willpower and determination can make reading period less stressful by working ahead.

Just sayin'.

Posted by: David on December 16, 2010 10:12 AM

@Patrick - A most delicious cookie. They were enjoyed by all. Thank you for baking ALL THE COOKIES! Can't wait to read with you tonight. (P.S. Bring more cookies?)

@David - I wish more professors took a page from your book. In my scenarios that involved papers instead of final exams, many professors would assign the topic in the final days of the semester and expect it turned in by the end of reading period. I feel like I was a relatively organized student with seemingly competent paper writing and research skills, but even with that, writing papers and studying for exams don't always coordinate well with each other.

To be noted, as a cinema kid, our film projects were always due, at the latest, on the day reading period started. As soon as that movie project was done, I could then start thinking about the rest of the things that were due over the course of the next few days. Hurray for taking a well-rounded schedule with projects, papers, and exams for many semesters running?

Posted by: Ma'ayan on December 16, 2010 11:41 AM

So much love for Oberlin.

Posted by: Colin on December 16, 2010 12:27 PM

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